The London Climate Change Festival: A COP26 for the people

By Janie Dee

Published:12 February 2020

Janie Dee
The UK must remain committed and lead the global effort more steadfastly than ever, says Janie Dee

I started working on and creating the London Climate Change Festival about six months ago. Setting up something like this is a daunting prospect – but when I asked Rob Brydon if he would take part and he said yes, I knew we were going to be alright.

We are now six weeks away. We have the use of the Charing Cross Theatre day times and evenings thanks to its Managing Director Steven Levy, and boy are we using it! In the very heart of this great city of ours and a step away from its life blood, the River Thames.

Initially I was invited to reprise my role in the Tony Award-winning play 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike' by Christopher Durang. It's a comedy. I mean, wonderfully funny and heart-warming; and taking my lead from this play which also holds some darker moments, a tiny spark of an idea grew.

Natalie Fee had done a TED Talk on her new venture City to Sea, which aims to stop our society leaking plastic into the ocean. It resonated.

You see, I love this Earth. I love my life. I remember my son Alfie shouting out as he jumped into freezing cold water up in the Alpine mountains: 'Aghh I love my life!!!'.

Theatre audience seats
The London Climate Change Festival will take place at Charing Cross Theatre, London from 23rd March until 16th May 2020. Image: Red theatre seats, Kilyan Sockalingum, Unsplash

I also remember him walking through the streets of London last year on the Climate Marches and missing school because he was really worried about the future of the planet and no doubt, of himself.

But then when he came home the question to myself was: 'What am I doing about this climate problem?'

Definitely not enough.

So, the spark of the idea started to grow. And I realised that not only could I introduce people to this new play BUT I could also invite them into a safe haven during the day where they are able to listen to some of the greatest minds talk about how we can all help reverse climate change, engage in thought-provoking debates and watch the latest ground-breaking films.

Most importantly, we can discuss how to make changes in our lifestyle – how we eat, how we travel, how we shop etc…. to reduce our footprint on this planet. I see it as ‘Education with joy’.

We are running the festival for people of all ages and in all walks of life. Each day will begin with a ‘Sunrise’ children’s workshops, run by Wild Geese Theatre company.

David Attenborough's 'Great Barrier Reef'
On Thursday 16 April 2020, Sir David Attenborough will star in his film for WWF, David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet. Image: David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef, Mark Tipple, CCL

‘Lunar Afternoons’ at 2.30 – 4.30pm will feature films and new theatre productions on the subject of our planet, including Sir David Attenborough’s film for WWF run by the brilliant and innovative self-sufficient Electric Pedals!!!

‘Horizon’ Discussions run 5-6pm, and for these we are joined by some of the most eminent and truly informed scientists, environmentalists, activists and innovative professionals.

At 7pm there’s a ‘Warm Up’ for our theatre-going audience with surprise star guests in the bar. And on selected nights, after Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike have left the stage we’ll run ‘Cool Down Star Cabarets’ with some of our truly greatest performers and musicians including Rob Brydon, Celia Imrie, Alastair McGowan and Guy Barker.

Unbelievably, all of the festival has been produced by a devoted and dedicated team of volunteers giving time to a cause they feel passionate about. But as a non-profit organisation we will be actively looking for financial aid from sponsors to step in and support the children’s workshops especially.

I would be delighted to be running such a festival any time, but especially this year when we all have myriad reasons to be talking about climate change, whatever our field.

As our festival starts, the Citizens Assembly, commissioned by Parliament, will have finished its final deliberations on how Britain should get to our net zero target – a representative sample of Britons giving their advice not on whether to do our bit in solving the greatest problem of our time, but how.

And at the end of the year the UK will be hosting the UN climate summit, one that has to produce results. It is fitting that the summit is in Scotland, one of the very first countries to fully acknowledge the climate emergency. The UK must remain committed and lead the global effort more steadfastly than ever.

I would like to think of The London Climate Change Festival as a COP26 for the people. The dream now is to see the theatre overflowing at each and every event and to feel the support of our diverse nation.

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